Sunday, September 20, 2009

Nova Scotia: Skyline Trail

Distance: 5.7 miles round trip
Elevation: 1,500 ft
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Critters: Moose

The end of the Skyline Trail looks out over the ocean in a series of cascading wooden steps and platforms with benches. The view opens up only the last quarter mile though.

Since we had only one day on the Cabot Trail, we knew we could only pick one hike. The Skyline Trail is the iconic trail in the Highlands National Park. It is in all the brochures, and even the park rangers were gushing. We were worried that ~6 miles round trip would take up too much of our day, but the Skyline is practically flat, so it only took us 2 hours to do.

All the pictures of this trail show the far end when the trail becomes a boardwalk over the bog. There is quite a bit of walking through the trees to get to this point, however, so be forewarned.

The first 0.5 miles of the trail is along a broad service road.

The trailhead is off the main road, but then you walk 0.5 miles up a wide service road before the real trailhead. There is a small bathroom there and a ranger standing by to educate the curious about the Moose in both English and French. As I walked by I saw the ranger hold up a jar of Moose droppings and as a women in French if she would like some chocolate. Ah! My 4 years of high school French just paid off! Now I know those things on the ground are actually chocolate left by the thoughtful Canadian Rangers. I wish our rangers were as kind to hungry hikers.

Moose (Alces alcies americana) on the narrow forested trail.

It was not long up the trail before we ran into a crowd staring that the rather large butt of a Moose sticking out of the trees. I have been wanted to capture a Coloradoan Moose for this blog for so long that I almost had an epileptic fit. Alas, I was snapping pictures so quickly, my auto focus did not have time to catch up. Then much to the delight of all present, another Moose just started walking up the trail right towards us. I am guess this was the kid of the much larger Moose whose butt we were not intimately familiar with. It took off into the woods, which was a good thing because passing a Moose, no matter how diminutive, on a narrow trail is no easy thing.

The trail also traversed small patches of mixed deciduous forest.

As I mentioned above, the Skyline trail is narrow and winds through coniferous forest before opening up to a barren area with many dead trees. The forest had been killed off and the new trees have been attracting the Moose, which have been eating the young, replacement trees, leaving the area barren. The Park Service has fenced off an area to see what would happen to the plant succession without the Moose.

I took this shot on a short social trail that exited the forest.

The trail contains patches of other trees and then low shrubs when on nears the boardwalk. 1,500 ft above the ocean, the boardwalk does contain dramatic views. There are platforms with benches all the way down to a low hill. We decided to stay on the upper platform for the most broad view. A large eddy could be seen to the left and the spouts of whales were visible to the naked eye off shore.

Reaching the boardwalk

We had hoped that the heat wave that was hitting Nova Scotia would be less daunting in the park where the terrain was open to the ocean breezes. Alas, it was 28C with no wind. We were roasting. There is limited infrastructure in the park, and our 1 Liter of water a piece was dwindling fast. I felt quite exhausted by the time we reached the car where I downed that last of my horded water and blasted the air con. I can imagine on a typical day, the Skyline Trail would be quite chilly.

1 comment:

Nina said...

Sylvia,
I answered your comment on my post - I'm never sure which is best, to answer there, or on the blog of the person who asked the question.
I look forward to hearing about Washington. My sister just got back from there and it looked great.
I'm getting ready to post another entry about Isle Royale today sometime. Have fun!